Minus team's 5 leading scorers from last year, Yough boys look to compete
Yough coach Wayne Greiser entered the 2013-14 boys' basketball season trying to find a successful combination to replace the core of the Cougars' success from a year ago, when the team qualified for the WPIAL playoffs for the first time in six years.
Where have you gone, Ben McCauley?
Not long after the glory years of the former Yough star's career did the Cougars begin to plummet.
After a string of highly successful seasons — led by the 6-9 McCauley, who went on to play at North Carolina State, scoring more than 2,200 career points at Yough — the Cougars continued to qualify for the WPIAL playoffs for two more years following his graduation in 2005.
They went absent beginning with the ‘07-08 season until barely squeezing into the Class AAA field a year ago after finishing fourth in Section 3 with another sub-.500 record.
Will there be more success in 2013-14? With four seniors gone from that 8-15 (5-7 section) team, the prospects appear challenging.
But Greiser wasn't conceding to defeat in spite of the absence of leading scorers Ben D'Amico (15.3 ppg.) and Dom Miele (13.5), as well as other veterans Kirk Brown, Roman Viecelli and Dan Turnsek.
The 5-10 Turnsek, who was Yough's top reserve a year ago, and according to Greiser, likely would have been in the Cougars' starting lineup this season, has given up basketball to devote more time to the school's indoor track and field team.
“He's getting some (college) interest,” Greiser said. “He would have been our best defender on the perimeter.
“We basically lost 85 percent of our scoring, 90 percent of our rebounding and our top two ball handlers from last season.”
But there's still some experience returning.
Senior Josh Sterner, who averaged 11.4 points per game last year, is back, along with three others who frequently played mainly in reserve roles. Junior Alex Bowman was a part-time starter and Matt Huss and Jordan Pore, as freshmen, saw limited action in most of the Cougars' 23 games.
“One of our goals every year is to win the section, but obviously, we've got things to work on to get there,” Greiser said. “The more immediate goal is to reach .500.”
Yough, which lost to Moon in the 2005 WPIAL championship game in McCauley's senior year, was a playoff-bound team last year, losing to Kittanning in a preliminary-round game.
“We've steadily improved the past couple of years,” Greiser said, “but we do have some players to replace. The guys who are here, we expect to be able to step up. But the big question is how long it will take and how they respond.”
Greiser has emphasized the Yough football team's highly coveted playoffs appearance this season and said he wanted his team to embrace it. Wide receiver Joe Pleva returns to the basketball team after taking his junior year to concentrate mainly on football. The 6-foot guard played two previous seasons of basketball for the Cougars.
Among the other players from whom Greiser hopes to get notable contributions are 6-4 senior forward Robbie Molnar — who played tight end in football — 5-9 sophomore guard Blake Kosor, 6-5 junior forward Alex Bowman and Jake O'Bradovich, a 6-6, 205-pound sophomore, who missed his freshman year with a back injury and later a concussion, sustained in a fall at home on ice.
“We really never have gotten to see what he could do,” Greiser said. “With his height, though, we feel he can help us on the defensive end and in rebounding.”
Yough's schedule gets under way Friday against Springdale at the Springdale Tip-off Tournament.
Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com.